In the next article of our series celebrating the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife we meet Leona Crookston, advanced fertility nurse specialist at our Cambridge clinic. Leona works with her colleagues providing IVF treatment but also specialises in helping couples get pregnant naturally.
Leona Crookston was 23 when a chance conversation with her mum paved the way for a rewarding career she has now pursued for nearly 20 years.
“I had worked in admin roles and as a receptionist and couldn’t decide what to do next,” says Leona. “I was chatting to my mum and she revealed that my Grandad had always really wanted someone in the family to be a nurse but everyone else was too scared of blood. I said, ‘well why don’t I give it a go then?’”
Leona trained in Liverpool before gaining experience in the gynaecological units of three London hospitals before joining St Bartholomew’s Hospital where she specialised in fertility nursing for 10 years. Four years ago she joined Bourn Hall’s Cambridge clinic.
Being a fertility nurse specialist at Bourn Hall is a very enriching experience says Leona, both in terms of the people she meets and works with and the knowledge that she is working at a centre of excellence with an unrivalled history spanning 40 years.
“I love the fact that Bourn Hall was the world’s first IVF clinic and all the heritage which goes with that,” she says. “There is such an aura around the place, it is very special.”
Bourn Hall Cambridge has a big team of nurses and Leona says that they are a lovely friendly bunch. “We all get along with each other really well,” she says.
Working closer to home also has its added advantages for Leona. “I live in Bedfordshire so I really don’t miss the commute in to London every day.”
Fertility Health and Wellbeing
As well as being part of the nursing team who look after patients undergoing IVF treatment a large part of Leona’s role at Bourn Hall is to co-run the Fertility Health and Wellbeing service.
“Many of the people who come to see us for a Fertility Health and Wellbeing check are doing so to avoid the massive waiting lists for hospital tests,” says Leona. “We are now also starting to see more and more couples coming through via our GP-referred service which we launched at the end of last year.”
The Fertility Diagnostic and Ovulation Induction service is a new service at Bourn Hall which is free to those referred by a GP (even in areas where IVF is not funded). It offers a diagnosis in 6 weeks and includes treatment to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs more regularly, if this is the cause of infertility. Ovulation Induction has an important role in helping some couples conceive naturally.
“We have had a good response from GPs and have had a number of referrals from Cambridgeshire,” says Leona. “The couples undergo a number of tests and we are able to provide lifestyle advice and support with weight loss as well as ovulation induction if appropriate.
“People are normally pretty receptive and the idea is to maximise their chances of getting pregnant naturally.”
As well as helping to run the Fertility and Wellbeing clinics and seeing patients who are undergoing IVF treatment Leona often speaks at Bourn Hall’s Open Events. “I had to give a lot of presentations when I was at Barts and I jumped at the chance to speak at Bourn Hall’s events.”
Leona finds her work rewarding: “It is a vocation working here, I love coming to work.”